Discounted tickets, additional air miles and lounge access are some of the benefits now available to senior Emiratis free of charge.
The new perks are the result of an agreement signed Tuesday between Etihad Airways, the UAE’s national airline, and the Ministry of Community Development, who have stepped up efforts to improve the quality of life for Emiratis aged 60 and above.
“This serves a very important segment of the community,” said Hessa Tahlak, assistant undersecretary of social development at the ministry.
“Senior citizens today do not only look only for classic services that were given before but today we are talking about happiness and lifestyle.”
Elderly Emiratis have access to a range of government-bestowed benefits but mostly health services. The new programme, named Basma, aims to broaden those benefits to include leisure.
“We are looking for more collaborations with the private sector where we serve not only senior citizens but also other segments of the community,” said Ms Tahlak.
Basma members will be given instant access to Etihad’s loyalty programme and will be eligible for discounted flights when booked through retail officers or Hala Travel Management.
Members will also receive an added bonus of 25 per cent on any guest miles accrued, discounts on upgrades using miles at the airport, as well as priority check-in and boarding at Abu Dhabi International Airport. They will also be entitled to an additional baggage allowance, depending on the class of travel.
Etihad also signed an agreement with Abu Dhabi Airports Company on Tuesday to provide Basma members a raft of added benefits at the capital’s main airport.
Those who sign up to the programme will be offered a 10 per cent discount at Abu Dhabi Duty Free, as well as three-day free parking. They will also have free lounge access.
“Many of these citizens served the community for long time and were employed in difficult jobs. They were enablers in their youth and now we want them to enjoy life and to travel more,” Ms Tahlak said.
Mohammed Al Bulooki, chief operating officer of Etihad Aviation Group said he came up with the idea for the programme after he saw a senior citizen standing in a queue at the airport.
“This is not part of our culture or tradition or our religion,” he said, adding that in the UAE culture, the elderly are revered.
Ahmed Al Hashmi, 60, travels twice a year.
“I usually got to Saudi Arabia and while I never found any difficulty flying, this is an amazing initiative that isn’t surprising to the UAE,” he said.
“It is part of the UAE’s culture and makes us feel appreciated and respected.”